Christmas came early for many — but not for all — when Gov. David Ige announced his $13 billion supplemental budget Monday.
It includes $160 million to rebuild the Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, $179 million for improvements to airports in Kona and Honolulu and $161 million for affordable housing.
The governor also wants $164 million for post-employment benefits for state workers and retirees — also known as unfunded liabilities or other post-employment benefits. There is $30 million for “heat abatement” in public schools and $35 million for a new classroom building at Campbell High School in Ewa Beach.
All told, the governor asked for $248 million in support for education while acknowledging “a lot more needs to be done.” (Asked why he wasn’t proposing to spend more on the Department of Education, Ige replied, “Are you willing to pay increased taxes?”)
Ige’s budget also includes $1.8 billion for construction projects.
Gov. David Ige says Hawaii must continue to live within its means.
Additionally, the budget contains more than $9 million for homeless programs, including $2.2 million “to keep public spaces public” — that is, to help the state clear state lands where homeless people congregate.
Ige said the budget makes good on the promise he made to the people of Hawaii when he was running for governor last year: “to get our government house in order, honor our obligations and commitments and act to improve the lives of Hawaii’s people. The budget I am submitting this year keeps that promise.”
But there weren’t many gifts in Ige’s big bag for the University of Hawaii, which won’t see an additional $3 million that school officials had requested to offset a deficit in the Athletics Department.
Still, it wasn’t exactly a lump of coal in a stocking, either. UH would get $4 million for the Cancer Center and $60 million in capital improvement project funds for renewal and deferred maintenance at campuses statewide.
Legislators staffers joined reporters for the governor’s budget presentation.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Ige said his supplemental budget represented “targeted changes” to the two-year, $26 billion budget that was approved last May.
“We are focused on areas where government can make a real difference in the lives of Hawaii’s citizens,” he said at a news conference at the Capitol with Budget and Finance Director Wes Machida at his side.
Among the budget items still to be determined are the costs to the state to absorb the defunct Hawaii Health Connector into the HealthCare.gov insurance coverage portal.
Nor is it clear how much the Legislature will need to provide the Department of Hawaiian Homelands. The First Circuit Court earlier this month said the state had failed to provide adequate funding and that DHHL should received at least $28 million in general funds this coming fiscal year. Ige said he was reviewing the decision with Attorney General Doug Chin.
The budget now goes to the House Finance Committee, which will begin hearing specific department budget requests Jan. 4 along with the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
Monday was the deadline for the governor to submit his budget to the Hawaii Legislature.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Finance Chair Rep.Sylvia Luke said Ige’s supplemental budget reflected “the tone” that she and Ige set when he was Ways and Means chair — “very cautious, still making investment in the future.”
She praised the governor for putting more money toward unfunded liabilities, for example, but said other items would require a closer look.
One would be the $160 million for the State Hospital. While pleased that the administration is committed to a new facility, Luke said it was “a huge amount” that calls for quicker work than the seven to eight years envisioned for the project.
Luke also was disappointed not to see a budget proposal for the Oahu Community Correctional Center, which she argued needs to be rebuilt somewhere else besides its current location in Kalihi. Ige said he’d have more to say about OCCC in his State of the State address next month.
Ways and Means Chair Sen. Jill Tokuda did not respond to a request for comment on the governor’s fiscal priorities.